The importance of mentoring… for you and your business

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You may be forgiven for thinking that a mentor scheme is a classic CSR box-ticking exercise, but the benefits to a business’s bottom line prove there are very real economic reasons for having one in place.

Companies with mentoring schemes report a reduction in staff turnover, increased commitment towards the company, plus a reduction in the need for companies to recruit externally, as valuable leadership skills and knowledge are shared within the business.

As testament to this, according to a study by Gartner, mentees are promoted five times more often, and retention rates were 22% higher for mentees than for employees who did not participate in a mentoring program. It’s no wonder, then, that 71% of Fortune 500 companies have a corporate mentorship program in place (Survey by the Centre for Workplace Leadership).

Millenials in particular see mentorship as crucial to their career success, but it’s not just junior members of companies that are benefitting from the knowledge sharing that mentorship brings.

For CEOs in formal mentoring programs, they prove just as valuable, with 84% acknowledging how mentors had helped them avoid costly mistakes and 84% attributing mentorship to helping them become proficient in their roles faster.

What’s in it for mentors?

The benefit for businesses and individual mentees are clear, but with the time investment involved in becoming a mentor, why bother?

Peter Cowley, CEO at Spirit Digital Media and founder of Connected Ventures, has done three mentorships for senior execs and CEOs and was matched up to his mentees by NESTA, an innovation foundation.

Although every business is different and every mentee is different, there are very similar issues that mentees face, according to Peter. “If they are a lone CEO, they often have no-one to share issues with; there are often challenges with finance and sales/marketing, and dealing with difficult staff often comes up.”

For Peter, his value comes in being able to share his experiences – both good and bad – and provide a forum where his mentees, often under a lot of pressure, have the space to step back and talk about their challenges.

“You act as a sounding board for helping your mentee work through the business issues they face,” says Peter, “then you share your own experience and sometimes provide access to your network to help them find solutions.”

“The challenges most CEOs and senior execs have are transferable and mirrored across businesses”

You can see the value for the mentee. But what’s in it for Peter?

“The challenges most CEOs and senior execs have are transferable and mirrored across businesses, so I enjoy getting to work with a range of different businesses, while providing solutions. There’s a sense of satisfaction in that.”

For Danielle Welton, Chief Content Officer and communications lecturer, her experience of mentoring made her reflect on her own presentation skills.

“I had a junior colleague approach me to be her mentor, who wanted help on growing her confidence in presenting. We arranged fortnightly meetings, where we spent an hour focusing on practical strategies to get her speaking more in front of people, plus the structure of her presentations for maximum engagement.

“Despite the time investment for me, it was really rewarding watching her break down her personal barriers and grow in confidence, and it helped me think about my own approach to presenting – engaging people from beginning to end, using visual cues to reinforce points and adding theatre to make what you are saying memorable.

“She made incredible progress and quickly found strategies to help her nerves. It made me realise that presenting, like many other things in business, is a skill that requires time, teaching and strategy. And it reinforced the fact that identifying your weaknesses and then finding solutions to them is a big strength in people and should be celebrated.”

Endurance mentoring

Emily Chappell, author and endurance cyclist, has a more organic experience of mentorship, with lots of people contacting her about taking on uber-endurance challenges, such as the Transcontinental – a 4,200km unsupported cycling race that Emily won back in 2016.

For Emily, the act of mentorship is rewarding in a number of ways. “When you can pass on knowledge, it helps you remember the experience you have and the ways that you have grown. It also gives you a wonderful feeling when you see your mentees succeed.

“I had a really nice evening a couple of weeks ago where I met up with two former mentees. They were both fresh from a 1,200km race, where one was the first woman to finish (in 51 hours); the other was the third woman ever to complete the ride on a fixed gear.

“When I met them two years before, they were nervous and unsure of themselves – now they inspire me, and many more besides. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

Image credits: Getty Images


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